JACKSON, Miss. Former NFL quarterback Brett Favre is paying $ 1.1 million in welfare money he received for multiple speeches in which he failed to show up, the Mississippi state accountant said Wednesday.
Auditor Shad White said his office received $ 500,000 from Favre on Wednesday, plus a commitment that Favre will repay the other $ 600,000 in the coming months.
Favre’s attempt to repay the money came two days after White released an audit of Mississippi Department of Human Services expenses showing that Favre had been paid by the Mississippi Community Education Center, a non-profit organization whose former leader has been sued for a program of embezzlement of wealth.
Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the United States, and the community education center had contracts with Human Services to spend money through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, also known as TANF.
“I would like to commend Mr. Favre for his good faith in making up for this and in making taxpayers and TANF families healthy,” White said in a statement Wednesday. “To date, we have seen no data to suggest that Mr. Favre knew that TANF was the program that was the source of the money he received.”
The audit released Monday said the center paid Favre Enterprises $ 500,000 in December 2017 and $ 600,000 in June 2018, and that he had to deliver speeches for at least three events. The auditor’s report stated that “after a cursory review of those data, the auditors were able to determine that the contracted person was not speaking and was not present for those events.”
Favre, who lives in Mississippi, is not being charged. In the audit report, payments to him are listed as “surveyed” fees, which White says means that “auditors clearly saw a wrong expense or were unable to verify that the money had been spent lawfully.”
White said the money Favre repays will be sent to the Department of Human Services.
Favre has not returned multiple text messages from The Associated Press since Monday. His manager, Bus Cook, told AP Wednesday, “We have nothing to say.”
In an audit of White, his employees said $ 94 million in questionable expenditures from the agency had been identified, including payments for sports activities with no apparent connection to helping needy people in one of the poorest states in the United States.
The audit was released months after a former Human Services director and five other people were charged with state charges of about $ 4 million in embezzlement. They have pleaded innocently and are awaiting trial in what White has called one of Mississippi’s biggest public corruption cases in decades.
“If there was a way to miss out on money, it would seem that the DHS leadership or their beneficiaries thought and tried it,” White said.
John Davis was director of the Human Services Department from January 2016 to July 2019, appointed by the then Gov. Phil Bryant – a Republican who also appointed White to his office when a previous auditor stepped down. Davis was among the defendants; another was Nancy New, who was a director of the Mississippi Community Education Center. Davis, New and the accused others have pleaded innocent and await trial.
AP left a telephone message on Wednesday at the Mississippi Community Education Center office in Jackson asking about payments to Favre. There was no immediate response.
The auditor’s report said that Human Services leaders, notably Davis, “participated in a widespread and ubiquitous conspiracy to circumvent internal controls, state law and federal regulations” in order to allocate money to certain people and groups. Davis instructed two groups that received scholarships, the Mississippi Community Education Center and Family Resource Center in Northern Mississippi, to spend money on certain other people or groups, the auditor’s report said.
White said those two nonprofits received over $ 98 million in grants from the Department of Human Services over the three years ended June 30. Most of the money came from temporary assistance for needy families.
The audit will be sent to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and federal officials will decide whether to sanction the state for improper spending, White said.
Associated Press sports writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report from Aurora, Colorado.